Ranking the Top 25 rookies of 2020

December 30th, 2020

As we close the book on 2020, let’s take a look back at the top rookie performers in the big leagues this year. 

Below are our top 25 rookies based on regular season performances, a combination of elite-level prospects who were expected to make an impact and some surprises. Near the top are the two young stars who won Rookie of the Year honors in each league: Mariners outfielder Kyle Lewis in the American League and Brewers reliever Devin Williams in the National. Some on this list are still rookie-eligible in 2021, putting them on early lists to contend for ROY hardware next season.

1) Kyle Lewis, OF, Mariners
.262/.364/.437, 58 G, 11 HR, 37 R, 28 RBIs

Though he scuffled in September, he still led all rookies in total bases (90) and tied for the lead in home runs while playing center field every day for the Mariners.

2) Jake Cronenworth, 2B, Padres
.285/.354/.477, 54 G, 4 HR, 26 R, 20 RBIs

He began the year as a super-utility player and ended it as one of the most productive second basemen in baseball, with his .831 OPS ranking third among all players at the position.

3) Devin Williams, RHP, Brewers
4-1, 0.33 ERA, 27 IP, 53 K, .090 BAA, 0.63 WHIP

He gave up one earned run all year, back in his second outing on July 27, and allowed just eight hits and struck out 17.67 per nine thanks largely to a ridiculous changeup.

4) Tony Gonsolin, RHP, Dodgers
2-2, 2.31 ERA, 46 2/3 IP, 46 K, .193 BAA, 0.84 WHIP

The Dodgers had the best record in baseball and the top pitching staff, which helped propel them to the World Series. Gonsolin was in the thick of it with a regular season ERA that would be fourth-best in the NL if he had enough innings to qualify.

5) Luis Robert, OF, White Sox
.233/.302/.436, 56 G, 11 HR, 33 R, 31 RBIs

Yes, he slumped at the end of the year, but he still led all rookies in RBIs, stolen bases (9) and tied for the rookie lead with Lewis in home runs while finishing second in total bases (88).

6) Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B, Pirates
.376/.442/.682, 24 G, 5 HR, 17 R, 11 RBIs

It was quite a September for Hayes, who made his big league debut on Sept. 1 but still managed to finish second in total bases among all rookie third basemen. He never went more than one game without at least one hit, all while playing plus defense.

7) Alec Bohm, 3B, Phillies
.338/.400/.481, 44 G, 4 HR, 24 R, 23 RBIs

Among qualified rookies, Bohm was second in OBP (.400) and finished in the top five in average, SLG, OPS (.881), extra-base hits (14) and total bases (77).

8) Ian Anderson, RHP, Braves
3-2, 1.95 ERA, 32 1/3 IP, 41 K, .172 BAA, 1.08 WHIP

He jumped out ahead of several other young Braves pitchers by striking out 11.4 per nine over six starts, allowing just 5.8 hits per nine and two earned runs or fewer in all but one of his starts in the regular season. He then went on to dominate in the postseason, allowing just two earned runs over four starts.

9) Willi Castro, SS, Tigers
.349/.381/.550, 36 G, 6 HR, 21 R, 24 RBIs

Castro swung the bat well from both sides of the plate right out of the gate after debuting on Aug. 12, and he was red-hot as the season came to an end, hitting .362/.402/.564 in September.

10) Ryan Mountcastle, OF, Orioles
.333/.386/.492, 36 G, 5 HR, 12 R, 23 RBIs

Anyone who saw Mountcastle hit in the Minors (.295/.328/.471) had a sense he could hit big league pitching and boy did he, with a batting average that would put him second in the AL race if he had enough ABs to qualify.

11) Dustin May, RHP, Dodgers
3-1, 2.57 ERA, 56 IP, 44 K, .220 BAA, 1.09 WHIP

May was very consistent in 2020, never allowing more than two earned runs in any start. He began missing more bats in September, with nearly one strikeout per inning in the season’s final month. He went on to make seven postseason appearances for the champions.

12) Sean Murphy, C, A’s
.233/.364/.457, 44 G, 7 HR, 21 R, 14 RBIs

Murphy has done a nice job behind the plate and provided power at it, leading all rookie catchers in a number of offensive categories, including home runs, RBIs, total bases and extra-base hits.

13) Kwang Hyun Kim, LHP, Cardinals
3-0, 1.62 ERA, 39 IP, 24 K, .197 BAA, 1.03 WHIP

The 32-year-old lefty quietly made a major contribution to the Cardinals’ rotation, with an ERA that led all rookie starters, despite missing time on the injured list with a renal infarction.

14) Cristian Javier, RHP, Astros
5-2, 3.48 ERA, 54 1/3 IP, 54 K, .188 BAA, 0.99 WHIP

The Astros were forced to use a lot of rookie pitchers in 2020 and Javier provided some stability for Houston, finishing third among rookie pitchers in strikeouts before pitching well out of the bullpen in the team's surprising playoff run.

15) Triston McKenzie, RHP, Indians
2-1, 3.24 ERA, 33 1/3 IP, 42 K, .179 BAA, 0.90 WHIP

He was used in relief down the stretch to prepare for a potential postseason role, but showed plenty to be a starter long-term, with 11.34 K/9 and an impressive 4.67 BB/9 rate.

16) Jared Walsh, 1B, Angels
.293/.324/.646, 33 G, 9 HR, 19 R, 26 RBIs

Walsh finished behind only Lewis and Robert among rookies in home runs and he did it in less than half of the at-bats of that pair.

17) James Karinchak, RHP, Indians
1-2, 1 SV, 2.67 ERA, 27 IP, 53 K, .159 BAA, 1.11 WHIP

The top three on the American League rookie strikeout leader list were starters, followed by Karinchak, who struck out 17.7 per nine innings out of the bullpen.

18) Dane Dunning, RHP, White Sox
2-0, 3.97 ERA, 34 IP, 35 K, .197 BAA, 1.12 WHIP

It’s been an impressive return from Tommy John surgery for Dunning, as he’s helped settle the back end of the White Sox rotation with a 9.3 K/9 rate over seven starts. He will continue his career with the Rangers after being dealt there in the Lance Lynn deal.

19) Bobby Dalbec, 1B, Red Sox
.263/.359/.600, 24 G, 8 HR, 13 R, 16 RBIs

Dalbec tried to match Walsh in terms of showing off plus power and actually topped the Angels' first baseman with 10.13 AB/HR (11 for Walsh) and he finished with an impressive .338 ISO.

20) Andrés Giménez, SS, Mets
.263/.333/.398, 49 G, 3 HR, 22 R, 12 RBIs

Giménez took the Mets' starting shortstop job from Amed Rosario in September and has the chance to play there a long time on his defense alone. He also held his own at the plate, showing some power with three homers in September.

21) Mauricio Dubón, OF, Giants
.274/.337/.389, 55 G, 4 HR, 21 R, 19 RBIs

A super-utility type, Dubón settled in as the Giants’ center fielder and was a dependable member of the team as it fought to make the postseason.

22) Randy Arozarena, OF, Rays
.281/.382/.641, 24 G, 7 HR, 15 R, 11 RBIs

With a little more time, Arozarena probably ends up higher on this list after homering once in every 9.14 at-bats and finishing with a .359 ISO before setting several playoff records and making headlines as he helped the Rays reach the World Series.

23) Sixto Sánchez, RHP, Marlins
3-2, 3.46 ERA, 39 IP, 33 K, .250 BAA, 1.21 WHIP

His last two regular-season starts (7 IP, 9 ER) didn’t help him any, but Sánchez showed off as electric stuff as any rookie pitcher before getting the chance to step to the mound for a pair of playoff starts.

24) Matt Foster, RHP, White Sox
6-1, 2.20 ERA, 28 2/3 IP, 31 K, .162 BAA, 0.87 WHIP

Outside of two outings as the opener, Foster saw nearly all of his work coming in the sixth inning or later, and he impressed with an overall 9.73 K/9 rate and 3.44 K/BB rate.

25) Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals
1-0, 1.57 ERA, 23 IP, 26 K, .175 BAA, 1.04 WHIP

Zimmer fought his way back from many injuries and got hurt again near the end of the season, but it’s hard to overlook how dominant he was in relief this year, with 5.5 H/9 and 10.2 K/9 rates.